Although the first leg in Lautoka ended in a 1-1 draw, this weekend’s OFC Champions League semi-final in Honiara leans ever so slightly in Marist FC’s favour.
Not only do they get home ground advantage and the fans that go with it, but the Solomon Islands club are also taking an away goal into the encounter which could prove crucial to their campaign to qualify for a first-ever final.
Marist took the lead through a classy strike from Davidson Tome in the first leg at Churchill Park less than a week ago.
With Jeffery Bule and Henry Fa’arodo bossing the centre of the park Marist were able to create chances and break down their opponents’ advances.
While the backline stood strong during the run of play, the frailties during set pieces were revealed when Marist conceded from a Cory Chettleburgh corner which was coolly finished by the veteran Fijian striker Osea Vakatalesau.
Marist coach Jerry Allen, having worked with Vakatalesau as well as Lautoka defender Brian Kaltack before, knew the threat the pair posed in set pieces and had believed he had adequately prepared his players.
Those same players will now need to heed the warning from their coach if they want to avoid conceding in a similar fashion in front of home fans.
“I reminded my boys, Osea has good height. But we allowed him to get away and we paid for it with a goal,” Allen said.
“The plan now is we need to win at home. I know we need to work on some of the things that didn’t go well and hopefully improve on them.”
Allen said the way his side starts the encounter will be crucial to Marist getting the result they want from this match.
“We need to score in the first half and will try to play attacking football against this opposition. We need to go forward early,” he said.
Allen’s biggest concern right now is fitness with goalkeeper Anthony Talo going down early in the first match, although was ably replaced by Harold Naumania, defender Koriak Upaiga is still struggling with an injury picked up in the quarter final, and the side will also be without goal scorer Davidson Tome who serves a suspension.
Despite the mounting injuries, Allen is confident in the depth of his bench with Atkin Kaua set to make a return come Sunday.
“Atkin is there ready, he’s 100 per cent fit,” he said.
“He will be able to slot in where Davidson was and do well.”
After being forced to come from behind to find an equaliser at Churchill Park on Sunday, Lautoka are keen for things to go their way from the outset this time around.
Coach Kamal Swamy said the game plan for Leg 1 was sound, but his side were undone by a silly mistake which they can’t afford to repeat.
“The plan was okay, but unfortunately they scored first,” Swamy said.
“We wanted to hold them off for a bit and work them out. We haven’t seen them play a lot and we had hoped to get a measure of them and then adjust to counter them.”
Knowing his side will be up against it, not only with Marist’s away goal in the back of their minds but also with the Lawson Tama faithful expected to turn up in their droves, Swamy remains optimistic.
He cites the way they came back from a one goal deficit to keep themselves in the running barely a week ago as proof of Lautoka’s capabilities.
“The boys were eager to go into the second half and score so there was a lot of positive thinking at half-time,” he said.
“That is one good thing about this team. Even though it’s a draw and they have a one goal advantage, I think we will still have a good show in Solomons.
“The team has the mental strength to come back. We have done it for many games and we can do it again.”
Marist FC [SOL] vs. Lautoka FC [FIJ]
Semi-Final Leg 2
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Sunday 29 April
Kick-off: 14h30 local (15h30 NZL / 15h30 FIJ)
Referee: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: John PAREANGA (COK)
Assistant Referee 2: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Fourth Official: David YAREBOINEN (PNG)
Vital Statistics: With Davidson Tome serving a suspension and an injury cloud hanging over at least two of his starting line-up there are limited options on the bench for Jerry Allen who would be left with just 14 players if Koriak Upaiga, Anthony Talo and Atkin Kaua prove unavailable come Sunday.
The Players: Coming back from injury the creativity, pace and endurance of Atkin Kaua will be a welcome addition to the squad especially as they’re losing Leg 1 goal scorer Davidson Tome to suspension. The midfield duo of Henry Fa’arodo and Jeffery Bule will need to be on their toes once more to close down what is expected to be quite a direct approach from Lautoka.
Coach Quote: “We expect on Sunday there’ll be 20,000 plus coming out and cheering for the home side and hopefully they’ll encourage the boys to keep on fighting all the way to the final.”
Team List: 1. Anthony TALO (GK), 2. Joachim WAROI, 3. Michael BOSO, 5. Jeffery BULE, 6. Robert LAUA, 7. Atkin KAUA, 8. Henry FA’ARODO, 9. Abraham INIGA, 10. Timothy BAKALE, 11. Mathias IANI, 13. Natanela BERO, 14. Koriak UPAIGA, 18. Thomas AMASIA, 21. Alvin RAY, 22. Harold NAUANIA (GK), 24. Thomas TALOGA, 25. Joachim KAIRI
Suspended: 20. Davidson TOME
Coach:Jerry ALLEN [SOL]
Vital Statistics: Before this year’s OFC Champions League Fijian striker Osea Vakatalesau was averaging a goal every second game in this competition. This year has been somewhat different with his first goal not coming until the semi-final last Sunday.
The Players:Kolinio Sivoki is a quiet achiever in defence for Lautoka, With more experienced players at his side he tends to get overlooked but the former U-20 international makes a strong contribution and is making a name for himself with decisive, clean and timely challenges.
Coach Quote: “In big games when people are under pressure they need to be disciplined. It’s part of high level football, the players need to take responsibility and know what they are doing.”
Team List:1. Senirusi BOKINI (GK), 2. Edward JUSTIN, 3. Zibraaz SAHIB, 4. Shazil ALI, 6. Jone VESIKULA, 7. Dave RADRIGAI, 8. Kavaia RAWAQA, 9. Liesari QALICA, 10. Cory CHETTLEBURGH, 11. Praneel NAIDU, 15. Peni FINAU, 16. Osea VAKATALESAU, 17. Kolinio SIVOKI, 18. Arami VOLAVOLA, 19. Benji TOTORI, 20. Brian KALTACK, 22. Beniamino MATEINAQARA (GK)
Suspended: 14. Samuela DRUDRU
Coach:Kamal SWAMY [FIJ]